The national anthem protests have become a hot topic ever since President Donald Trump attacked those who chose to disrespect the flag. More players than ever before then protested the national anthem and as a result, ratings plummeted, ticket salesdropped, and fans have boycotted the league.
But now, the referees of the sport are starting to weigh in. On Friday, two high school football referees walked off the field after players from Monroe High School in New Jersey knelt during the national anthem. The two referees were Ernie Lunardelli and his son Anthony Lunardelli. They stood for the national anthem while several players took a knee, and then they walked right off the field after it ended.
Ernie, the father, said after the game:
“I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces. What they’re protesting has nothing to do with the national anthem and I’m against it, so I decided to protest for them kneeling and that’s what I did.”
He said weeks before the incident that he had warned the league’s assigner of games that he would walk off the field if players kneeled — and it looks like he has done just that.
“Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with. That’s my protest. I don’t care if it’s a baby, if it’s an 80-year-old man, anybody. I don’t care. Any race, color, I don’t care who it is. It’s not the way I was brought up and it pisses me off that people are doing that.”
They were prepared for the backlash and had a lawyer set up out of fear that they would “try to blackball” them. Ernie stated, “what hurts the most is these kids don’t even know why they’re kneeling.”
Then he said something that will definitely get some backlash:
“I just don’t understand why this is happening, especially at the high school level. If you’re not happy with being in America, go somewhere else. It’s that simple.”
There is nothing in the New Jersey law that states players have to stand for the national anthem, but these two refs certainly made it clear how they feel about the protests.